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VIDEO: Calling all Aquapreneurs! Innovation challenge targets freshwater

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Up to 10 innovators could win investment to help scale up solutions focused on improving global freshwater, as part of the World Economic Forum UpLink programme.

Improving freshwater resources

Up to 10 innovators could win funds to help scale up solutions focused on improving global freshwater.

A new five-year initiative from the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) UpLink programme is looking for solutions that “benefit freshwater ecosystems”.

The initiative is looking for “entrepreneurs all across the world and different industries” to improve decision making, strengthen freshwater resilience and restore water quality.

A total pot of 1.75 million CHF (€1.8m) is available, which would be split among the 10 selected companies. The funding has been provided by HCL, with other supporting organisations including ARUP, PA Consulting, The Nature Conservancy and Xylem.

“The Aquapreneur Innovation Initiative comes at a critical time,” Olivier Schwab, managing director of the World Economic Forum previously said.

“With water scarcity enveloping regions around the world, we need to fast-track progress within the freshwater sector and build security for people and planet. HCL’s collaboration with UpLink will harness and drive forward the solutions of the world’s top innovators, connecting them to the initiatives and networks which can see them scale and drive transformational change for the world’s most fragile water systems.”

UpLink was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in collaboration with founding partners Salesforce and Deloitte.

The platform sources new innovations through a competition framework known as Innovation Challenges. UpLink has run more than 30 challenges and identified over 260 entrepreneurs with innovative solutions for the world’s most pressing issues.

Building a freshwater ecosystem

The new collaboration with UpLink encompasses building a freshwater innovation ecosystem.

“Water pollution continues to be an ever-growing challenge…contrary to popular belief, water pollution increases with economic growth.”

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), this includes:

  • Running innovation challenges to source solutions from aquapreneurs
  • Connecting these aquapreneurs to existing initiatives and water networks
  • Unlocking funding opportunities to scale their ventures
  • Raising awareness on the global agenda of the importance of freshwater.

Commenting on the importance of freshwater as a target area, Uplink said that “water pollution continues to be an ever-growing challenge”.

Contrary to popular belief, water pollution increases with economic growth. Today, 80 per cent of all wastewaters are still discharged untreated into the environment, impacting the quality of our freshwater, biodiversity and global health.

What UpLink is looking for

The innovation challenge is looking for innovative solutions that “restore water quality, build climate change resilience and help improve decision-marking”.

Focus areas for the challenge are based on consultation feedback to cover the issue of lack of or unusable water data, which impacts decision making, as well as water being “too little, too much or too polluted”.

Uplink said it is looking for:

  • Stage: Impact-oriented pilot, growth, or scale-up phase start-up companies with demonstrated success toward scale – high technology ready level (i.e., a proven track record with measurable results and impact). Those solutions representing the “idea” or “prototype” phase will not be considered
  • Business Model: Ideally seeking for-profit start-up companies or social enterprises with a sustainable, and ideally hybrid, funding model
  • Scale: Demonstrated potential to scale, particularly for communities most impacted, alongside a vision for achieving long-term financial viability and sustainability.

Furthermore, the criteria includes eight elements, including:

  • Financially viable business model: Solutions should demonstrate a sustainable business model, approach to revenue and represent a proof of funding history, as well as investable opportunities for investors or philanthropic funders.
  • Cross-sectoral impact: Solutions will be holistic with cross-sectoral impact and demonstrate ‘win-win’ benefits for multiple agendas, particularly society and the environment
  • External Risk: Solutions are aware of any risks and uncertainties associated with achieving their outcomes
  • Replicability: Solutions are implementable across different geographies and cultural contexts.

To find out more information and submit your application, visit here.

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